Education Innovation in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UP: Using technology to innovate
Using technology to support the teaching and learning process is not new. The Faculty of Health Sciences at the UP, together with the Department of Telematic Learning and Education Innovation, are continually looking at ways in which we can explore the opportunities technology offers for innovation in medical, dental and related health sciences education. The aim is not to replace the lecturer or to replace the valuable hands-on opportunities for learning, working with real patients, but rather to enrich the learning experience and provide additional opportunities to review learning material. The power of the computer and the ability to simulate many events that occur in daily practice make it possible to provide many more opportunities for the student to practise the art and science of caring for patients.
The demand for development of learning material on CD-ROM continues. To date, the Faculty has developed close on 29 programmes in 13 different disciplines. These CDs are resource-rich and make it possible for the students to review material over and over again. Students can work through the material in one of several computer laboratories on the campus, or can take the CD home and work through it in their own time, and at their own pace. Several of these projects are representative of groundbreaking work that is being done in South Africa in this regard. Some of these pioneers include the Departments of Physiotherapy, Human Nutrition and Anatomy.
The students in the Faculty are also regular users of computer-based testing as a method of assessment. There are many benefits both for the lecturer and the student. The computer, saving marking time for the lecturer, marks tests immediately. Students can also receive their results as soon as the test has been completed.
There is also increased use of the World Wide Web to deliver course material. Courses in public health, family medicine and dentistry are offered via the web. Lectures, class notes and other material are made available to the students. The discussion boards and email features available in the 'online classroom' provide many opportunities for sharing information and discussing work with other students and colleagues. Both students and professional practitioners can benefit by these new ways of teaching and learning. Using the web is one way in which professionals in the health sciences field, who are providing essential services in the rural areas, can continue with their professional development so that learning becomes a life-long experience. The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University, together with the Department of Telematic Learning and Education Innovation, will continue to look at innovative ways for making learning possible.